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NIH to Award $64M for Transformative Research

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health has issued a number of new grants that will total $12.8 million in 2010 and up to $64 million over five years to a number of new and innovative research projects that may be high in risk but offer high rewards.

The NIH Director's Transformative Research Projects awards (TR01) program is aimed at allowing "investigators to sidestep conventional stumbling blocks they often face when applying for high-risk research, such as the need for preliminary data or a restriction on the amount of funds that can be requested," NIH said in an announcement of the funding on Thursday.

This batch of Transformative Research grants will fund a wide range or efforts including innovative and original projects focused on enhancing the power of DNA sequencing and other genome and gene-based applications, such as personalized medicine and rapid diagnostics.

"Complex research projects, even exceptionally high-impact ones, are tough to get funded without the necessary resources to assemble teams and collect preliminary data," NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement. "The TR01 awards provide a way for these high impact projects to be pursued."

Among the fiscal-year 2010 grant winners:

• Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Massachusetts Institute of Technology will receive $670,000 in 2010 to use genomic, synthetic biology, and protein engineering approaches to develop light-inducible transcription regulators targeted at specific genes in mammalian genomes. The aim is to develop and then use a platform that uses light-inducible transcriptional effectors to regulate multiple genes in both individual cells in vitro and in the intact organism.

• Scientists at New York University School of Medicine plan to use the $1.3 million it will receive in 2010 to study how the human body's bacterial populations have been altered by antibiotic use and other factors, and how that may have affected child development and predisposed children to obesity.

• University of Texas, Austin, researchers will receive $300,000 in 2010 to study DNA circuits for use in development of point-of-care diagnostics. They aim to determine if DNA circuits can be used to generate low-cost diagnostics for resource-poor settings and for point-of-care applications.

• MIT researchers also will receive $410,000 in 2010 to use DNA sequencing to generate knowledge of protein functions and protein interactions and to design custom molecules for research and therapeutic applications. Knowledge of how these interactions occur in healthy and diseased cells could lead to new treatments.

• Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory scientists will use $440,000 in 2010 funding to develop a method for using high-throughput DNA sequencing to study the connectivity of neural circuits at the single-neuron level. The goal is to identify the connections that when lost are involved in diseases such as autism, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, and mental retardation.

The full list of 2010 award winners can be found here.

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